My twenty-three year old son is a recently minted engineer working for a large and highly-respected manufacturing company with a strong reputation for good ethical conduct. He is a straight arrow with a strong moral compass. Because I have been in the ethics and compliance field for nearly 20 years, he grew up having many dinner conversations about ethics and compliance and what good companies do. He gets it and supports it.
Because of his heightened awareness and understanding of what we do, he often tells me about ethics and compliance initiatives at his company. He said the training was good. He has read the code of conduct. He had a thoughtful new-hire orientation addressing reporting systems and avenues to raise issues. I smile at these successes and look forward to running into his company’s ethics and compliance officer at a conference some time to offer congratulations on getting through to a member of our next gen workforce (albeit an enlightened one).
However, after Thanksgiving turkey last week, my son shared another story. He said, “You won’t believe this. Last week we had to fill out the SILLIEST questionnaire at work. It was a series of questions that listed each of our policies and then asked if we violated each of them. Why would anyone ever answer ‘yes’ to this on a form? Do they honestly think this will work?”
Our kids are often our reality check and this was a good one for ethics and compliance officers. We all know why we ask employees to certify they have read and understood a policy and we consider this to be important due diligence. My son even agrees that this makes sense. However, this story reminds us that asking employees to self-identify their own policy violations probably won’t yield much actionable information and can cause our employees to doubt the credibility of our programs and motives.
The take-away is that certifications are important in ensuring that employees have been made aware of our codes and policies but we need to be thoughtful about what we are asking and how it is likely to be received – by any generation.